When recording Dick Tracy Must Die, I had not the most idea in the world of what I was doing. I knew about comps, but not comp sheets. Most of you know about neither! Comping is the process of taking multiple takes of some instrument or vocal part and editing together the Best of All Worlds version; the result is called a “comp” take. It’s short for “composite,” and it’s standard and has been for decades now.
Comp sheets are timelines, basically, where you listen to a particular part in a song, and making notes as you go in time. So if there’s something you don’t like at 1m30s, you put a note there, as the song is playing. Very straightforward, really – but they didn’t occur to me, so most of the time my approach was to keep going until I had a track I thought was pretty damn close to perfect to start with, then just re-record the imperfect bits until I got them, too, all as part of the mixing process.
That screaming you hear in the distance? That’s every competent audio engineer in the world hearing what I just said. It’s kind of like inserting important ingredients – like, say, sugar, or flavouring – into the cake after you’ve put it in the oven.
Anyway, it’s also very much taking the slow boat to China, as I learned while working with Leannan Sidhe on her Mine to Love. Now I know better! And me being me, of course, that meant YAY TIME TO DESIGN A THING! So I have!
Version Zero (click to enlarge)
It’s the only legal (sized) thing at Supervillain Studio, ar ar ar ar ar
I was smart enough to print one copy and try to use it, because I’ve already thought of like five changes I want to make. And the hard part about that is making myself not stop and make new changes every time I think of one.
Because hopping christ on a pogo stick, comping is boring. Oh god it’s boring. It’s the line editing of music, and it is farking dull. I’ve been called a fantastic editor by people who’ve seen me work, and I think I deserve some of that rep (assembling “The Diesel-Driven Eight-Dimensional Jet Car Blues” out of bits and pieces from a movie soundtrack was a pretty good educational experience), but it’s still a bit brain-melty with all the tediousness.
And easy graphic design improvements to a tool/form I actually need? CAN DO SPORT.
But I’m being good. I’ll finish this track first. Then I’ll need to print a new one anyway, so I’ll make the improvements then, and test that. Because I can make all the BASK IN THE GLAMOUR OF MY PAPERWORK FORMS jokes I want to, but this really is part of making the music. Not every day gets to be heat rays and kilotesla magnetic fields; just the really good days. 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration – I’d maybe quibble a bit with the numbers, but certainly not the concept. That Edison guy may’ve been a bit of a bastard, but he pretty much got that idea right.